The building of a new structure to contain radiation from Chernobyl in Ukraine and make it safe is into its final stage.
The shelter, more than 100 metres high, will house the nuclear reactor damaged in the 1986 disaster, and the old concrete structure built to cover it which is approaching the end of its life.
The safe confinement is expected to reduce radioactive emissions drastically.
But the 30-kilometre exclusion zone will remain contaminated.
“The area of exclusion zone will not be free of nuclear waste because there is the intention to have the nuclear waste storages in the exclusion zone, so there will be a permanent waste management operation,” said Vince Novak, Director of Nuclear Safety at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD).
Once ready, the shelter will be pushed onto rails to cover the reactor. It is hoped to become operational by the second half of 2017.
Experts say it will be another 300 years before it’s safe to live in the area.
“The ark is protecting the sarcophagus where there’s a lot of nuclear and toxic waste. It will be safe to live here after at least 10 radioactive half-lives have passed. An average radioactive half-life lasts 30 years,” said Volodymyr Verbytskyi, an engineer controlling the exclusion zone.
So the immediate area will remain a ghost town.
The cost of the shelter is 2.15 billion euros.
The EU, members of the G7, Russia, Switzerland and other countries are all donors – with the EBRD contributing 675 million euros.
Euronews correspondent Sergio Cantone reports from Chernobyl:
“So the construction of the sheltering structure continues according to schedule. The biggest problem will come afterwards and it’s about removing all the radioactive elements in reactor number 4. At the moment a technical solution seems still to be a long way off.”